Community Green: Boundaries define more than national borders

By Pamela Noel

She and Kevin were hiking in the Sequoia National Forest. They stopped for a quick snack, and Kevin suggested they follow the Kaweah River back to her home in Three Rivers. Later they could circle around and pick up the car. As they started picking their way down the crevasse that held the river, she had an increasingly knotted feeling developing in her stomach. She could definitely swim. That was no problem, but somehow, she couldn’t shake the gnawing dread about wandering down this river, its steep cliffs defining the ever narrowing funnel of water.

Soon, they came upon a beautiful waterfall 10 to 12 feet tall. Lowering themselves down to the base of the first part, there was no going back. No problem Kevin said. They could jump into it and swim to the other side. Looking down she wasn’t so sure. Kevin decided to jump first and did. As soon as he jumped she could tell he was in trouble. Gasping for air he finally pulled himself to the other side.

“There’s a whirlpool,” he yelled. “ Don’t jump. It’s too strong. I’ll go get help.”

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Sitting on the ledge with the waterfall coming down on her, she began to chill. She was realizing that both her options, at that point, were bad. Staying and waiting increased her chances of hypothermia, and jumping presented the possibility of not exiting the whirlpool…alive. Kevin flagged down a car and called for the forest service rescue team.

After the rescue, she was extremely cold but, for the most part, OK.   The part of this ordeal that she regretted was that she didn’t listen to the sensation caused by the knot in her stomach. She had an intuitive feeling that they should not go down river as they had. And she didn’t listen to that feeling. She ignored it in favor of “being a good sport.” In this instance, she was giving away her power that would have established a boundary based on an “inner knowing.”

As women, mothers, educators, and others in nurturing roles, we tend to overextend ourselves in caring for others. This isn’t only true of women; men too can be caregivers and even rescuers, to their own detriment. Females especially have been raised to not take up too much space; to not always speak their truths; to give and give, sometimes until they have nothing left, even for themselves.

Often, in addition to upbringing, we have not always been taught how to set boundaries based upon knowing what our needs are, and clearly communicating them. We somehow hear, and carry the message that, by being too assertive (some would say aggressive), we won’t be liked, accepted, or measure up.

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Boundaries allow us to understand our own needs—and help us to establish our authentic selves–even putting ourselves first. Once we know what our needs are, evolving our boundaries actually allows for closer relationships. This might concern our possessions, physical or emotional space.   Where that boundary touches another’s, is the place where we meet and relate. This is true whether one is establishing boundaries for a child, in our own career, or in a caring and loving relationship.

Speaking our own truth and establishing boundaries enhances relationships by helping another know who we are.   Once those boundaries are known, there is a lot of room “to dance together,” because we both can play and relax into that commonly known and understood space.

I am excited about personal growth. I believe that we are here on the planet to have an authentic human experience. Developing this authenticity takes a lot of consciousness about who we are, what our needs are, and where our boundaries lie. And this awareness can really accelerate when in relationship with others, because our relationships help us to see and work with ourselves. For many of us, we have a ways to go in becoming fully formed and actualized humans. It often takes a lifetime of learning to heed the intuitive internal stirrings, that can keep us out of the whirlpools, knowing our boundaries, and dancing in relationships.